Editor’s note: Town Manager Paul Bockelman submits a comprehensive report to the Town Council at the first Town Council meeting of each month. The reports, usually 9 to 12 pages in length, provide up-to-date information on what is happening within and across town departments. The Manager’s Report is usually one of the last items on the agenda and is often taken up late at night, leaving little time for Bockelman to do more than mention a few highlights and this is usually all that gets entered into the Council minutes. What follows is a complete, unedited version of the Town Manager’s Report. All Town Manager Reports are available here on the Town’s website
o First Amendment Audit: I moderated a state-wide webinar on January 10th on First Amendment “audit” protocols for municipal officials. Municipalities are increasingly subjected to “auditors” who record interactions with local government officials and post them online. If you recall, the Town was subject to one of these “audits” last summer. Town Attorney Lauren Goldberg will give an overview of First Amendment audits and how to prepare for one. Lauren will also share strategies for calmly communicating with auditors, reporting the interaction, and determining follow-up measures. Over 1,000 municipal officials registered for this event. I also shared the memo I wrote to staff so other cities and towns could utilize it in their staff communication.
o MMA Annual Meeting:
▪ I served on a panel of municipal officials providing insights, tips, and advice on attending the MMA Annual Meeting. The session was very well attended.
▪ Director of Community Responders Earl Miller was a featured speaker on “Mental Health and Policing: Crisis Intervention and Co-Responders” at the MMA Annual Meeting. This session presented the dynamic challenges in law enforcement and discussed recent local approaches incorporating co-responders and alternative responders. The Police Chief from Pittsfield and the MMA’s Legislative Director were the other panelists.
▪ Director of Communications and Civic Innovation Brianna Sunryd was a featured member of a panel entitled “Using Public Communications to Build Community and Trust”. She, along with other public sector communication professionals, shared tools and strategies for how to engage with residents more successfully and deliver important information in a way that is accessible and has the greatest impact.
▪ Brianna also served as the sole judge for the MMA’s Annual Town Report contest. ▪ I thank the Town Councilors who dedicated your weekend to learning more about
local government and connecting with other municipal officials and state leaders from around the State.
o Tibetan Uprising Commemoration: Town staff are helping to support the annual march to Northampton on March 10th at 9:00 a.m. in front of Town Hall.
o Cuppa Joe with Paul: We will be scheduling additional Cuppa Joe coffees – and other beverages – along with other outreach events in the coming weeks/months.
o Board/Committee Vacancies: We will be recruiting for vacancies that come due on July 1st AND for existing vacancies. A list of all vacancies on Town boards and committees can be found here: Board – Committee Vacancy List. Residents may apply to serve on a vacancy by filling out a Community Activity Form here: Community Activity Form
· Latest News:
o This week the Biden Administration announced the COVID public health emergency, declared three years ago, will end on May 11th. This decision is due, in part, to the fact that the pandemic no longer disrupts individuals and society as dramatically as before, and our health care system is not overburdened. A three-month change of status plan will allow an orderly transition out of the emergency state.
o Ending the declared emergency will not affect us all equally. Vulnerable populations including communities of color, the poor, and uninsured will continue to be at high risk for infectious and poorer health outcomes due to the loss of free vaccination, tests, and treatments, which may exacerbate other existing health issues and health care access issues.
o Common wisdom and research suggest that the count of true infections is greatly underestimated with over 80% of COVID testing be done at home (JAMA). Most experts agree we are not in the endemic phase yet. COVID is unpredictable and the virus will continue to disrupt our lives. We still have over 500 U.S. deaths daily and people are suffering with long COVID (CDC).
o The end of the emergency is not a message that we should let our guard down or be more relaxed; COVID will continue. There are actions individuals and the Town of Amherst will take to continue to support our community.
· Wastewater Surveillance Testing: COVID wastewater levels allow us to understand the burden of COVID in the Town of Amherst. Along with other key public health indicators, this information is used to decide whether to initiate interventions depending on increasing or decreasing levels. Find Amherst’s wastewater testing results from Biobot here, and DPH wastewater testing for Amherst and the State here.
· Vaccination Clinic:
o The Health Department is holding Moderna and Pfizer, Bivalent boosters for 12 years and older the first Wednesday of every month, from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm, and every Thursday, 12:00 – 2:00 at the Bangs Community Center. Registration is preferred, walk in appointments are available. Other nearby sites continue vaccinating, click here to find a vaccine with VaxFinders.
o The Health Department will be following the FDA and CDC recommendations on any change in the COVID vaccine regimen. The external scientific committee, Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, VRBPAC, will soon be deciding if the COVID vaccine approach should be simplified, and if so, how it best be done.
o There was a COVID vaccine clinic in the Middle School cafeteria on January 20th. Those who received a vaccine at this clinic were given a $75 gift card. There was a very large turnout.
Rapid Antigen Tests:
Free Rapid Antigen Tests are available at the Bangs Community Center for the public. We are also assuring availability to our partners such as Craig’s Doors. These expire June 2023. Use Rapid Antigen Tests to test for COVID before you visit, and after if you are symptomatic to prevent spread to others.
o Be sure to test correctly to get a good sample. Blow your nose before you test, you need to get the cells lining your nose and not the mucus. The tests have the same accuracy on the Omicron variant as they did the other strains of the virus (Annals of Internal Medicine). If you have symptoms, test immediately. If you were exposed to COVID-19 and do not have symptoms, wait at least 5 full days after your exposure before testing. If you test too early, you may be more likely to get an inaccurate result. A single, negative antigen test result does not rule out infection. To best detect infection, a negative antigen test should be repeated at least 48 hours apart, known as cadence or serial testing.
· To Summarize:
o As individuals, we should continue to use the tools we have available in preventing severe disease and the spread of COVID, flu and RSV. Pick and use the right tool at the right time.
▪ Choose well ventilated or filtrated indoor spaces.
▪ Leverage Rapid Antigen Tests. Use before you visit, and after if symptomatic.
▪ Wash your hands often and for 20 seconds with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.
▪ Stay home when you are sick.
▪ Clean surfaces such as toys, doorknobs and mobile devices to prevent transmission of the flu, RSV and other viruses.
· Administration and Finance
▪ The Annual Audit has been completed with no comments or management letter. This is a remarkable achievement in an organization this size. Total credit goes to our excellent finance team and – really, Comptroller Sonia Aldrich. We will be scheduling a time to review the audit with the Finance Committee.
▪ The Joint Capital Planning Committee will begin its work on February 9th.
▪ The State’s budget writers announced that state tax collections are expected to grow by 1.6% in fiscal 2024 over a recently adjusted projection for fiscal 2023 revenue.
· The increase does not include an additional $1 billion in projected revenue from the State’s new surtax on annual incomes over $1 million, which was adopted by voters in November. Dispensing funds generated from the surtax will be subject to appropriation, but the ballot measure stipulated that funds must be spent only in areas of transportation and education. Including the surtax, estimated revenue would increase the total budget projection for fiscal 2024 by 4.1% over the adjusted fiscal 2023 revenue estimate.
▪ Our health insurance provider – MIIA Health Benefits Trust – provided us with our rate changes for FY24. The health insurance increase is coming in at a 7.94% increase. We had projected 8%.
▪ The State is working on another settlement with pharmaceutical companies related to Opioid abuse. We will be working with the State to participate in the settlement process.
o Town Clerk:
▪ Award! Congratulations to Town Clerk Sue Audette who earned her Certified Municipal Clerk (CMC) designation.
· The CMC designation declares that the municipal Clerk is proficient in their position and that they have demonstrated proficiency in administrative skills critical to good government.
· The CMC program was designed to enhance job performance for the Clerk by the International Institute of Municipal Clerks. To earn the CMC designation, a Clerk must attend extensive educational programs and demonstrate pertinent experience in a municipality.
· Sue began courses in 2009, and slowly worked her way towards earning her CMC as time and budgets allowed. “My bachelor’s degree in business administration has been great for general knowledge, but there is no official Town Clerk school. This program has been indispensable for gaining the knowledge needed in addition to having on-the-job experience.
She said her goal is to promote integrity and confidence in the Town Clerk’s office, and I hope the earning of the CMC achieves this goal.”
▪ Town census forms will be mailed to all households in mid-February, so be on the lookout!
▪ The Town will be receiving $18,850.91 from the State for early voting costs that were certified by the State Auditor’s office as an unfunded mandate.
▪ The State Ethics Commission hosts free training seminars for state, county and municipal employees on the restrictions imposed under the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A. These two-hour seminars present an opportunity us to have new hires and newly appointment officials to receive important training on the on the law. Seminars are conducted remotely via Zoom video conference and are scheduled every other month on the 4th Thursday of the month at 10:00 a.m. unless otherwise indicated. The next training is Thursday, March 30th.
▪ Family Outreach of Amherst has funds available to provide to residents to meet past due rents and utility bills. Grants will be for a maximum of $3,000 and accepted on a first come first serve basis, until funds are depleted. Residents should 1) download and fill out the application, and then 2) contact Family Outreach of Amherst at (413) 548-1275 to schedule an appointment.
▪ The Town prepares quarterly reports on ARPA funding which are posted online here:
https://www.amherstma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/63921/Quarterly-Expenditure-Report—Period-Ending-93022 This is the report for the period ending September 30, 2022. The report for the period ending December 31, 2022 is in the works.
o DEI Department:
▪ DEI workshops were organized jointly with the Human Resources Department for the Department of Public works. Five sessions were completed at various locations. One scheduled for later this week.
▪ DEI staff organized a staff-only event during the lunch hour at the Jones Library for the National Day of Racial Healing.
▪ We are working to provide additional trainings during the all-staff professional development day scheduled for March.
▪ Outreach: DEI staff have been highly active in meeting with, and presenting to, members of the community. Staff presented to the Applewood Retirement Community, the Rainbow Café (an Intergenerational LGBTQIA group that is forming). And the Chamber of Commerce/Business Improvement District at The Drake.
▪ Events: DEI staff have been organizing and hosting multiple community events including Kwanza at the Bangs Community Center, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. event in Town Hall, and the National Day of Racial Healing conversations for staff and the community, the latter which was held at the Survival Center. The Lunar New Year event drew a crowd of over 200 people to the Middle School!
· The DEI Director presented to the Northeast Government Executives in January for a virtual discussion entitled Strategic Municipal Capital Planning (Aligning your Planning with your Community Values & Goals). You can see the event replay here: Northeast Government Executives Council January Virtual Event
· National Day of Racial Healing: The DEI Department organized two events for the National Day of Racial Healing. Promoted by the Kellogg Foundation, we joined hundreds of other communities, schools, colleges, universities, – including the University of Massachusetts – businesses, and other organizations in initiating conversations designed to begin bridging the racial divide.
o The first event was open to staff only. Members of the Town’s Core Equity Team and Community Responders will facilitate small group conversations for Town staff. We have asked that staff bring their curiosity, an open heart, and their brown bag lunch.
o The second event was open to all community members and was held on January 17th at the Survival Center.
o There were great turnouts at both events.
o I and members of the Town Council attended an event at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for the National Day of Racial Healing.
· Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: The DEI Department organized an event on Sunday, January 15th to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King. The Human Rights Commission read the Town Council proclamation with a Bell Ringing Ceremony followed by a community reading and discussion of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s April 10, 1957 speech “A Realistic Look at the Question of Progress in the Area of Race Relations.”
▪ Self-Assessment Tool:
· The Department has developed self-assessment tools that Town departments are using to help the Town establish a baseline and benchmark in a number of areas through a DEI lens. Departments are being asked to review staffing, thinking about their operations, and suggesting professional development needs.
· There are two self-assessment tools, the first asks departments to review the current EEO Data for their department. The second asks a series of questions related to diversity, equity and inclusion issues as they might appear in the work of municipal departments.
▪ Flag Raising Policy: The Department is developing a policy on flag raising in light of the recent court ruling against the City of Boston. This policy will be reviewed by the Town Attorney and will be submitted to the Town Council for its review and adoption. Boston Flag Policy Court Decision Article
▪ Police Resident Oversight Board: The Director has developed a draft timeline that would have a Resident Oversight Board begin in FY24. We will be seeking outside consulting support to create this new body. The development and implementation of such a Board would have budgetary implications that would be included in the FY24 Town budget, if approved by the Town Council. The Request for Proposals for
consulting services to design a Resident Oversight Board is nearing completion.
▪ Reparations: On January 11th the African Heritage Reparation Assembly held a community listening session featuring Congressman Jim McGovern. The listening session link is here.
o Economic Development:
▪ Luminaria, Fire & Ice: The BID’s Luminaria and Fire & Ice festivals have been merged due to the cold temperatures this weekend. Both will now be held on Saturday, February 11th. Live ICE sculpting of a magical menagerie of ice sculptures, hot cocoa and ‘smore kits over fire pits, tie dye crafting under a tent with the Amherst Recreation team. All will come to a grand finale with a performance by the MATICA Circus FIRE performance at 5 PM.
▪ New Block Party: The Business Improvement District is looking into scheduling an Arts and Culture Block Party downtown on May 21st. The idea is to have a companion event to the Fall Block Party in the Spring that would focus on the rich offerings in the Town from our arts and culture communities. The Cultural Council is supporting this event which will be dedicated to arts and culture dedicating $7,500 of its funds for the event.
▪ Cultural Council:
The Cultural Council awarded seventy-three grants totaling $61,983 for cultural programs in Amherst and the region. Proposals for music and theater events, visual artists, and programs featuring the natural environment were supported.
· Grant recipients represent a broad range of organizations and institutions, from Amherst Cinema, Gallery A3, and the Amherst Historical Society to Suzannah Muspratt’s self-guided walking tour of stained glass in Town Center, Salsa con Tacos Latin Dance lessons, and John Root’s Edible Perennial Gardening and Landscaping. The largest single grant went to the Odenong Powwow on Amherst Town Common ($7,000), while events occurring in conjunction with Amherst Regional High School were awarded $6,320. A full listing of all grants can be seen at the Amherst Cultural Council’s home page: https://www.amherstma.gov/1221/Cultural-Council.
▪ New Business & Technical Assistance ARPA Grant Application: The second round of ARPA Grants for NEW Businesses and Technical Assistance. The Amherst BID continues to work closely with the Town on economic recovery, revitalization, and growth. Round 1 of grants was late summer of 2022. The application deadline for this second round is February 15, 2023. Applications will be reviewed using a scoring system and then by a committee between February 16 – 28. Funding will be released immediately upon award notice. Applicants can apply for ONE of the two grants:
· NEW Business grants: These grants are to support small, brick and mortar, storefront businesses throughout the entire Town. Grants for new businesses will go up to $10,000. To apply for a NEW business grant you MUST have a fully executed lease and business plan.
· Technical Assistance grants: These funds are to assist with professional fees that are helpful to opening a business. These funds can be paid for services from architects, attorneys, internal systems, build-out needs, branding specialist for logos and web design etc. To apply for this grant, you must have a preliminary business plan including concept, budget, management plan and have found space that would be suitable for your concept. A fully executed lease is not required to apply for this grant.
· Public Safety
o Emergency Management:
▪ Town staff are as prepared as we can be for the frigid temperatures that are arriving today. The good news is that the cold will not last long.
▪ Police and Fire are prepared to respond to emergency needs. The DPW is paying special attention to possible water breaks. The Facilities Department is monitoring our public buildings.
▪ All Amherst Town responders (Police/CRESS/Fire) are on high alert with the ability to be pro-active in helping people who may need shelter or warming.
▪ The shelters at the University Motor Lodge and Immanuel Lutheran Church operated by Craig’s Doors are at capacity. The Building Commissioner is working with Craig’s Doors to make sure they can maximize the space they have. And Town staff and Craig’s Doors have procured access to funding for emergency hotel stays.
▪ Our Community Responders and Craig’s Doors staff and others have been reaching out to the folks at encampments to ensure that they are aware of the opportunity and encouraging them to take advantage. Our Community Responders report having had some important success in housing some hard-to-house folks.
o Fire Department:
· Three Amherst firefighters graduated from a 10-week intensive firefighting training program at the Massachusetts Fire Academy. All new firefighters attend this program, in addition to continuous training they require throughout their career to stay proficient. Students receive classroom training in all basic firefighter skills. They practice first under non-fire conditions and then during controlled fire conditions. To graduate, students must demonstrate proficiency in life safety, search and rescue, ladder operations, water supply, pump operation, and fire attack. Fire attack operations range from mailbox fires to multiple-floor or multiple-room structural fires. Upon successful completion of the Recruit Program all students have met the national standards of National Fire Protection Association 1001 and are certified to the level of Firefighter I and II, and Hazardous Materials First Responder Operational Level by the Massachusetts Fire Training Council, which is accredited by the National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications.
The Communications Director worked with the Fire Department to promote the firefighting/paramedic profession AND to promote the benefits of working in the Town of Amherst with a series of profiles of Town firefighter/paramedics. These are promoted on our social media platforms with special emphasis on LinkedIn. I have shared several of the images throughout the Town Manager’s Report.
· The Fire Department has been utilizing the vacant and derelict Hickory Ridge
clubhouse as a training facility for firefighters. o Police Department:
▪ Three new officers are working their way through their 14 weeks of field training. ▪ Four new officers are projected to graduate from the Academy on April 14th. They
will then begin their 14 weeks of field training. o Community Responders Department:
▪ The Department continues to develop its protocols, policies, and to respond to certain requests. we are still in training mode and learning from interactions that the responders encounter.
▪ We continue to hold regular team meetings – a captains team to review data on a weekly basis and a leadership team that reviews policies, protocols, and procedures, equipment needs, dispatch decisions, etc.
· Community Services o Senior Center:
▪ Outdoor Plaza: The Massachusetts Office on Disability, through its Municipal ADA Improvement Grant Program, awarded the Town $155,512 to create an accessible outdoor plaza space outside the Bangs Center for use by the Senior Center and others. The Municipal ADA Improvement Grant Program is an annual grant program administered by the Office of Administration and Finance and the Massachusetts Office on Disability to fund capital improvements by municipalities to increase accessibility for people with disabilities.
▪ Age-Friendly Community: The Town has become the 735th community to enroll in the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities. Through the age-friendly program, the Town will work to become more livable and age-friendly by creating safer and more walkable streets, needed housing and transportation options, better access to key services, and opportunities for residents to participate in community activities.
▪ New Van: The Senior Center has received a donation of a transport van from the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA). We thank the PVTA for its generous donation of the retired paratransit van. With an accessible van in place through this donation, Amherst Senior Services will have a way to transport those using walkers and wheelchairs, and the means with which to resume our medical ride transportation program. The Town has dedicated ARPA funds to support the operations and drivers of the new van.
▪ Senior Spirit: The latest edition of the Senior Center’s newsletter can be found here: https://www.amherstma.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/15205 If you haven’t reviewed the newsletter in a while, click the link to see the new look with easy to read text and a million activities.
▪ CR Café: The Senior Center is continuing its weekly CR Café, that stands for “Can’t Remember” café! Every Wednesday from 10am – 12noon, Town residents are invited to the Senior Center to enjoy company, entertainment, and some good treats!
o Recreation Department:
▪ Theater: Amherst Community Theater had a successful run of The Little Mermaid which was held January 19-22 and 26-29 at Bowker Auditorium.
▪ Winterfest: Recreation staff have been working with the Business Improvement District and Chamber of Commerce to bring light and activities to the darkest days of winter with a two-week celebration began January 28th with a kick-off event at Cherry Hill, This is being followed by Luminaria and Fire & Ice on the Town Common on February 11th. See the schedule above.
▪ Craig’s Doors:
· Craig’s Doors operates two locations. The two shelters are currently at full capacity at both sites: Immanuel Lutheran Church (23 beds) and University Motor Lodge (40 beds).
· Craig’s Doors is completing the renovation of their resource center which will serve as a drop-in center and a warming space. Working with DHCD to create a safe trans space within their congregate issue.
· Craig’s Doors has been able to secure PVTA bus passes for their shelter guests for the next 6 month with access to all routes. This will be an opportunity to monitor the impact of transportation access on job and housing placement.
▪ Permanent Shelter Site: The Town took ownership of 457 Main Street, formerly the site of the Amherst Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), for the purposes of developing a shelter for the unhoused, providing space for supportive/transitional housing and services, and building affordable housing with some directed toward veterans.
· We are conducting an assessment of the building and site as we prepare to demolish the 1960s-era structure and have the site redeveloped for both affordable housing and a permanent homeless shelter.
· The work will take several years.
· The purchase price for the property was $775,000, less than the $833,800 appraised value for the two-story building. The transaction includes the associated land, most of which is parking for the facility that included a banquet hall and bar, kitchen and dining area and pool tables.
· The Town Council at its Jan. 9 meeting authorized the money for the transaction, coming from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
· Conservation and Development
o Planning: The Department will be challenged to meet its mission as two Town planners have department for exciting new jobs. We are recruiting new planners now.
▪ East Street/Belchertown Road: The Town is working with the chosen developer on a land development agreement.
▪ Other Sites: Town staff are exploring other Town-owned property to determine its suitability for additional affordable housing.
▪ The final draft of the community survey on solar was approved by the Energy and Climate Action Committee and the Solar Bylaw Working Group. Extensive changes to the original draft were made with input from both committees.
▪ The Fort River Farm Community Garden Circle continues to meet bi-weekly and is discussing the upcoming season with more direct leadership from community members.
▪ The Sustainability Director is working on the development of a community-wide residential heat pump program. An RFQ is in process to engage a consultant to partner with the town on this initiative. Staff are also working to convene a public panel discussion with industry experts on heat pumps.
▪ Staff are promoting the PACE financing program to the business community and will be working with the Chamber of Commerce on scheduling a breakfast session with a representative from Mass Development.
▪ Staff are working with the IT Department on obtaining the information for green house gas emissions analysis of the Town’s vehicles. Two different data collection systems are involved, making the effort more complex to ensure the additional data is consistent.
▪ Planning efforts continue for the 2023 Amherst Sustainability Festival scheduled for Saturday, April 22nd from 10 AM – 4:30 PM.
· Public Works
Award! Amherst Assistant Superintendent of Operations in the Department of Public Works, Amy Rusiecki, received the 2022 Paul F. Howard Award from the Massachusetts Water Works Association (MWWA). The Award recognizes an active MWWA member whose knowledge and contributions to the profession merit special recognition. The Massachusetts Water Works Association, Inc. is a membership organization dedicated to the advancement of the drinking water profession. Through education and advocacy, MWWA is committed to public health by promoting a safe and sufficient supply of drinking water to Massachusetts
consumers. This is an incredible award for Amy and reflects well on the Department and the Town.
o Shared Sewer Project with Hadley: The Town was awarded a $155,000 grant through the Efficiency and Regionalization grant program to fund the design of a sanitary sewer connection for regional wastewater management between Amherst and Hadley. This project will finalize the design of a potential sewer force main connection between the Town of Hadley’s sanitary sewer and the Town of Amherst’s Waste Water Treatment facility. The Amherst Waste Water Treatment facility was designed and constructed in the late 1970’s as a regional facility. To date the system receives flow from the Town of Amherst and part of Pelham.
o Roads: Work has shifted to repairing potholes by public works crews.
▪ Northampton Road: Caracas Construction has closed down major operations on Northampton Road for the winter. This project is part of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation roadway reconstruction project that extends between University Drive and South Pleasant Street.
▪ West Pomeroy Lane: Looking for the road to be paved in the first half of 2023.
· Short-Term Event Uses of Town Commons (Section 1a of the Town Council Policy): o Sustainability Festival by Town Staff (South Common): April 22, 2023
· Short-Term Parking Requests (Section 2a of the Town Council Policy):
o 14 Boltwood Avenue – January 3-4, 2023 – Grace Church for construction vehicles · Short-Term Public Way Closures (Section 3b of the Town Council Policy):
o Western Mass 10 – Hartford Marathon Foundation – November 5, 2023 – 8:30 – 10:00 a.m. – Triangle Street to North Pleasant Street to College Street to College Street to Main Street to Dickinson Street to Norwottuck Rail Trail
· Placement of Road and Temporary Signs (Section 3d of the Town Council Policy):
MAJOR CAPITAL PROJECTS ·
o Congressman Jim McGovern announced the Jones Library project will receive $1.1M in a federal grant. He emphasized the environmental impact of the project (the reduction of energy use by 60% and the cutting of lifetime carbon emissions by 41% compared to the existing building) along with its creating full accessibility for those with mobility issues and its addressing the growing need for English language instruction for immigrants and non-native speakers.
o The Town has committed $15.75M to the project and the State contribution through a Mass Board of Library Commissioner’s grant is currently $13.87M.
o Up-to-the-minute updates can be found here: https://www.joneslibrary.org/buildingproject
· DPW Building/Fire Building:
o Staff continue to explore multiple options for a new site for the Department of Public Works.
· Elementary School Building Committee:
o The Elementary School Building Committee met three times in January to review and discuss the cost estimates: January 13, January 20, and January 27, all beginning at 8:30 a.m.
o The Massachusetts School Building Authority has increased its reimbursement formula to $393 per square foot from the current $363 per square foot. This will result in an increase in the State’s contribution to the project’s cost.
o Two Community Forums sponsored by the Elementary School Building Committee were held on January 25 and 26th, one in the morning and one in the evening. The Committee and consultants provided an update on where things stand with the building design as well as updates on construction and project costs and there were numerous questions and answers.
o At its meeting on February 6th, Town staff will present options to the Town Council for borrowing funds and scheduling a debt exclusion vote.
· Hickory Ridge: Work is underway to prepare the site for the installation of solar panels.
o Fort River Solar 2, LLC (“FRS2”) Solar Project, managed by Amp Solar Development Inc. (“Amp”) is set to begin construction in the coming weeks.
o The project has been permitted through the Amherst Zoning Board of Appeals and the Conservation Commission. The project has been designed outside of critical natural resource areas on the site.
o The Town and FRS2, along with the site contractor, Dynamic Energy, will be constructing a 3.83 MWatt community solar project. Once the mobilization date is finalized, we will provide an additional update with more details around what to expect, safety notices, and points of contact for the construction period.
o The Town acquired the 150-acre former Hickory Ridge golf course in March 2022. The purchase represented a once-in-a-generation opportunity to acquire a large parcel of land to use for conservation, recreation, and the production of green energy. The Town and Amp have worked in partnership to plan for the construction and operation of an approximately 26-acre solar project. The remaining land utilization will benefit the community with the addition of recreational use and walking trails, while exemplifying conservation efforts around the beautiful woodland habitat along the Fort River.
o While access to some parts of the site will be limited during construction, the Town and Amp are committed to public access at Hickory Ridge as an important area for walking, wildlife viewing, and connecting neighborhoods previously disconnected by the golf course. To that end, the Town and Amp are working together to restore nearly 18-acres of riparian habitat along the Fort River to improve habitat and water quality. Likewise, the Town has received over half a million dollars in local and state funds to build a trail system to increase recreation opportunities and connectivity around the site. The trail system will utilize newly developed trails, the existing cart paths, and the access road used by Amp to access the solar array.
· Pomeroy Village MassWorks Grant: Caracas Construction has halted work for the winter season. · North Common Restoration/Main Street Parking Lot: The Town is putting the final touches on
the plans for the North Common with the goal of putting a package out to bid in the coming weeks.
· North Amherst Library: The building is taking shape. Work continues and is close to being on schedule. The weather has proven to be cooperative to allow progress to continue.
UPCOMING MEETINGS AND EVENTS
February 27th – Town Council meeting .
March 6th – Town Council meeting
March 20th – Town Council meeting